A Perfect Storm

There are always storms brewing within individuals, organizations, and our environments. Knowing how to forecast them with accuracy is nearly impossible. Individuals always have internal and external influences, misfortunes, and demons that they contend with - sometimes all at the same time. They process these with varying success and sometimes lose the necessary logic and judgment to see themselves through. Unfortunately, we don’t often come into work broadcasting our personal problems and issues for the rest of the crew, so we tend to discover these when it’s too late or others are at their worst.

One of the most common problems on the individual side, sans work ethic and ethos, is the everyday, common person’s struggle with alcohol and substance abuse. Firefighters are just as susceptible to these vices, and there’s not one of us who hasn’t seen the storm front right before our eyes or this problem and its occupational consequences at its worst. But there’s more hope than ever for firefighters and first responders to tackle this issue ourselves. This month, meet Battalion Chief Dan DeGryse from the Chicago (IL) Fire Department. A few years ago, DeGryse decided to tackle this problem head on and instituted the Rosecrance-Florian program. This program has seen tremendous success in helping firefighters overcome this sometimes-insurmountable problem. I’ve seen this program’s success first hand with members of my fire department. See for yourself with my profile of the Rosecrance-Florian program.

When it comes to storms brewing within the organization, understanding the schematics of your organization’s complexity to find asymmetrical links between success and failure is a great forecaster of its outcomes. A lack of this understanding will put you on a ship in the fog headed into the perfect storm. Discovering points of potential should be marked with “red flags.” David Mellen discusses these flags and how your organization will have a clear passage through any storm that it will face.

Speaking of storms, Seth Barker brings us one in the form of a wildland-urban interface fire that was dubbed “The Roaring Lion.” Even the best of plans and intentions can be overwhelmed by an event of unforeseeable magnitude: Consider any national or local tragedy that we had the equipment and personnel in place for but discovered that we forgot to ask several important questions regarding our readiness. Barker reminds us to ask: What is the plan? How much time do you have? How much time do you have to evacuate your home with everything you need and love? How much time does your fire department have? What are the capabilities of your fire department? These are the tough questions that need to be addressed when facing any storm - or lion.

How about when it all goes down the storm drain? Well, we’ll at least use the pun to bring you a great story about the six-hour rescue of a manatee from such a drain in Jacksonville, Florida. It’s a story with the message of the importance of multiagency and coordinated efforts. Coordinated efforts are just what are needed to keep the aforementioned storms at bay. Whether it’s your department’s culture or leadership, we’re all part of the plan and need to realize our roles and responsibilities. Perhaps the greatest role the company officer has is ensuring that the plan includes courtesy, professionalism, and responsibility. Jamie Howarth discusses how she got her crew’s buy in on this plan through the principles of her organization’s approach to cardiopulmonary resuscitation. And when it comes to principles, we often find barriers, whether it’s the individual or organization’s vetting of policy, procedures, and culture. Jeff Rothmeier asks us to look at who’s doing the vetting of our policies and habits to ensure that it’s the right culture to follow.

Remember that we must take care of ourselves, in the sense that we bring our demons, issues, and problems to work with us, whether we think we do or not. We must see ourselves as part of any cumulative problem that will impact the company, organization, and community, in that order. Organizations will always do their best to navigate the storms that are constantly brewing. If we take care of ourselves and each other we can steer the ship through any storm and between the red flags in front of us. It’s just up to us to know that they’re there.

Current Issue

November 2017
Volume 12, Issue 11
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Pennwell